NHS exec slams BBC hospital dramas

Wednesday, November 18 2009, 12:18 GMT

By Andrew Laughlin,

An NHS manager has criticised BBC hospital dramas for what he claims is an unrealistic and unprofessional portrayal of workers in the health service.

Writing in the Scrubbing Up column on the BBC website, mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Antony Sumara claimed that the negative portrayal of health workers in shows such as Holby City and Casualty makes it much harder to build public cofidence in the NHS.

Sumara slammed BBC dramas for portraying nurses and doctors flirting and arguing while at work, along with referring disparagingly to patients and never appearing to wash their hands.

He further claimed that its hard for viewers to respect NHS staff when they are constantly being portrayed as "people who seem to come to work purely to continue their social life".

"Staff, equipment and theatres lie idle just waiting for emergency patients to be admitted for surgery. Staff chatting, having affairs and even saying how bored they are (twice in one episode) give unrealistic views of what is actually an incredibly busy and demanding vocation, requiring hard work," Sumara continued.

"No schedules exist and no operations are cancelled and this service is provided 24/7 with surgeons and consultants appearing from nowhere to operate. Probably one of the biggest failings of these dramas is [not] to promote good hygiene in the form of hand-washing and using hand gel. As the country faces an increase in swine flu cases, shouldn't we be seeing active signs of infection control and prevention in our hospital dramas?"

Despite accepting that most people are able to distinguish fiction from reality, Sumara said that there is a danger some viewers will accept the BBC's portrayal as an assured picture of the NHS today.

He therefore called on the corporation to use its dramas to instead promote "the good work and professionalism" of workers in the health service.

In response to the criticism, a BBC spokesman said: "Although both programmes are set against the backdrop of a hospital it's important to point out that they are fictional dramas where much of action comes from the social interaction and sometimes the human error of the characters involved in the shows."